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Humble Branding is Product Management

Chris Konya, Managing Director of Sylvain Labs, discusses the keys to creating purpose-led brands that will prioritize customer values and grab consumer attention.


One common thread throughout Chris Konya’s career has been brand and innovation consulting. She’s currently the managing director of Sylvain Labs, a strategy and design consultancy that helps brands bring meaningful purpose and utility to consumers. She has coined the phrase “humble brand” to represent this concept.

“To me, a humble brand is one that sees beyond itself and thinks about its value, not just for itself, but for others,” says Chris. “Humble brands are ones that have a sense of self awareness, a sense of accessibility, ones that are responsive, and also are true to themselves and understand their role within society.”

Chris believes that, in order to be a humble brand, companies must think more about consumer value and less about brand value. They must shed their overly aspirational branding in favor of transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness that takes consumer values into consideration.

“The brand that embodies this in an obvious and clear way is Nike. And I hate talking about Nike because every brand marketer talks about Nike. But if you look at the history and at the progression of their communications, it's a really clear rise of the humble brand,” says Chris, noting Nike’s marketing strategies in the 90s and early 2000s favored promotion of athletes with unattainable skills. Nike now has campaigns “focused on real people and not just on their athleticism, but on a way of being, an attitude, and on a conviction. Things that everyday people can do. And so [they’re] moving from an aspiration that is slightly unattainable into a humility and an aspiration that is attainable."

Like Nike, brands must find a way to be approachable and self-aware in their marketing and messaging, instead of promoting unattainable dreams or promises to consumers. Each organization’s needs and priorities will vary, but the end goal, whether it’s building a new brand or rebuilding an established one, must connect the brand’s values to the evolving role it plays in consumers’ lives.

“You have to look inward at the organization. At their strengths, at their assets, at who they are, what they're known to be, and also what they're really good at, and who they really are,” says Chris. “What is the truth about that organization, company, and brand? Finding that truth is really important to figuring out what role it can play within society and within the categories and areas of life that it touches. What are the themes in the major movements that are happening, and what's the white space that they can take up?"

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about branding, product positioning, and communication strategies.

Here are the highlights: 

  • What, in her opinion, are the biggest challenges facing brands today? (2:27)
  • How does Chris define a ‘humble brand,’ and why are they more successful? (6:29)
  • Why Nike is a perfect example of a brand pivoting from unattainable to achievable (10:23)
  • How to connect a brand’s values to the evolving role it plays in consumers’ lives (15:21)
  • The powerful outcomes companies can achieve when adopting humble branding techniques (21:15)

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